“Retired Pastor Charged with Murder of 8-Year-Old Girl Linked to Church Camp”

By | July 25, 2023

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A retired pastor in Georgia has been charged with the murder of an 8-year-old girl nearly 50 years ago. David Zandstra, 83, was arrested and charged with criminal homicide, first-, second-, and third-degree murder, kidnapping of a minor, and possession of an instrument of crime. Zandstra confessed to the murder, which occurred at a church camp in southeastern Pennsylvania. The victim, Gretchen Harrington, was walking alone when Zandstra offered her a ride and then took her to a nearby wooded area where he attacked her. Zandstra had been the pastor of Trinity Christian Reformed Church at the time of the crime. The Roys Report reported

A retired pastor from Georgia has been charged with the murder of an 8-year-old girl that occurred nearly 50 years ago. David Zandstra, 83, was arrested by the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office near Atlanta on July 17 and has been denied bail. The murder of Gretchen Harrington, which was linked to a church camp in southeastern Pennsylvania, forever changed the community.

Zandstra, who was pastor of Trinity Christian Reformed Church in Broomall, Penn., at the time of the crime, confessed to the murder when confronted by police in Georgia. He reportedly saw Gretchen walking alone on the road and offered her a ride, but instead took her to a nearby wooded area. Zandstra then asked the victim to remove her clothing, and when she refused, he struck her in the head with his fist, believing her to be dead. He attempted to cover up her body and left the area.

The disappearance of Gretchen Harrington in August 1975 shocked the community, and hundreds of people searched for her. Her body was found two months later in Ridley Creek State Park. Zandstra was interviewed twice during the investigation but denied seeing the victim on the day of the murder.

Zandstra, who had been ordained in 1965 and served as a pastor for 40 years, ministering in multiple congregations affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, has opposed extradition to Delaware County, where the alleged crimes occurred. However, the District Attorney’s office has a request pending with the governors of both states to transport him to Pennsylvania for trial.

The Christian Reformed Church expressed condolences to the Harrington family and stated that they strive for their congregations to be places of peace and safety. The denomination recently adopted a revised code of conduct to ensure the safety of all who attend and visit their churches.

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The arrest and charges brought against Zandstra are a reminder that justice can be pursued even after many years have passed. The community affected by Gretchen Harrington’s murder can now find some closure and hope that the truth will continue to come to light..

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